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Va. school officials to voice concerns on charter schools

Anita Kumar

School officials are gathering for a press conference on charter schools next week at the state Capitol.

The Virginia School Boards Association will be there. So will the Virginia Association of School Superintendents. And the Virginia Education Association.

Are they getting ready to oppose Gov. Bob McDonnell's proposal on charter schools? Support it? Actually neither.

Three weeks into the General Assembly's 60-day session, McDonnell has yet to introduce his proposal on charter schools -- one of his top priorities -- and no one in the education community or the legislature seems to have been given a heads up about it.

Instead, the groups are joining forces to talk about Republican Del. Bob Marshall's bill, which passed out of a House subcommittee last night. Marshall says the bill would require that School Boards explain why they reject a charter school application, instead of just saying no outright, as the law allows now.

VEA President Kitty Boitnott did tell us that new Education Secretary Gerard Robinson reached out to talk to her when he was first hired, but not about specific charter school proposals.

Rob Jones, director of government affairs for the Virginia Education Association, said the VEA knows nothing about the governor's plan. But, he said, it's a mistake to assume the group automatically opposes all charter schools. It's just mostly a question of who has authority over the schools, he says.

In general, McDonnell has proposed creating a path for charter proponents to appeal rejections by school boards, and he wants to allow other authorities to approve charters.

Virginia's constitution places tight limits on what kinds of schools can be established without the assent of local school boards, which typically oppose charter schools. The state only has four charter schools.

Marshall, who has two charter school bills, said he has not heard from the governor's office. But, he said, he thought this would be a good year to sponsor the bills because of the support for charter schools from McDonnell and President Obama.

"If Barack Obama. Bob McDonnell and Bob Marshall all support charter schools, don't ask questions, just do it,'' he said.

McDonnell's spokesman Tucker Martin said, "Throughout the transition, and over the past three weeks, this administration has held numerous meetings and briefings with legislators from both parties, as well as stakeholder groups, on this issue." Martin said a formal announcement on McDonnell's proposal will be coming soon.

By Anita Kumar  |  February 5, 2010; 4:26 PM ET
Categories:  Anita Kumar , General Assembly 2010 , Robert F. McDonnell  
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Comments

On this issue, as is the case with many surrounding our new Guv and his proteges, the devil is in the details. The concept of charter schools is not in and of itself threatening. But a deliberate and well-organized movement to take our public tax dollars from our public education and give them to fundamentalist religious schools is. And, based on his statements and actions over the course of his entire career, that is what many of us in VA believe McDonnell and his Administration are up to. And we are suitably wary and concerned.

Posted by: nan_lynn | February 5, 2010 10:26 PM | Report abuse

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